From noble and sacred to worldly

THE issue of woman in the cosmos, of woman-man relations, is too profound, too awesome, too complex to be fully comprehended through analysis and rational thought by any mere man, woman, or child.

It goes down to the deepest unknowable roots of the human psyche, human heart.

Listen to James Brown's It's A Man's World. There are truths so deep and unknowable that we just look, without words, perhaps with sighs, oohs or tears of pain or joy or other overwhelming emotion; for example, as we watch a newborn baby, or a dead human body in front of us.

Incidentally, in traditional society, at the site of the baby being born, and in the room of the dead person, are women.

Birth and death were handled by women! Only women were that deep.

It is not for nothing that in Nguni history-mythology we are told that life emerged out of a reed (umhlanga), that the first to emerge was a woman with a baby on her back.

In another region of Africa, we are told life emerged out of deep expansive waters, and the first to emerge was a woman with a man on her back! Yes...

And the first living merciful deity known to Zulus is Nomkhubulwane, the only daughter of God, the goddess we get close to, with whom we converse, in front of whom we cry, plead, and sing, for rain. Who at the end issues the rainbow! ( Mazisi Kunene, Anthem of the Decades).

In early Christianity, woman was honoured and worshipped all over Europe as Mother of the Saviour (Ean Begg, The Cult of the Black Virgin).

I remember, in Hartford, US, being called by a friend to her home. I found her at the conclusion of tears. She told me she was angry with herself; she had just prayed to God, asking for forgiveness for having thought of committing suicide over a "mere man".

That gave me a flashing insight into the greatness of woman.

In woman-man relations, we see the interaction of the sacred and the profane, of the godly and the worldly.

Unfortunately both woman and man have since become degraded and too worldly to know and see this.

Just as we need to separate the healer from the fake healer, so we need to separate woman from the woman who has totally succumbed to worldly ways, in the process becoming small.

"How well we Zulu women had learned to avoid the clutching hands of men, to duck and dodge and elude them, and to break from their grasp! Our own dignity is our chief protection...") (KwaZulu: Queen Mkabi's Story, edited by Cecil Cowley)

Yes, the issue of woman-man relations is too profound, too awesome, too complex, to be fully comprehended by us on this profane earth.

Let us begin with worldly possibilities: as we grow bigger and more profound and wiser and more sacred, we shall start on our way to that depth, and on our way to that height.

Woman is originally representative of the noble and the sacred in the world.

Both woman and man must re-order the world, re-order themselves, re-order their conduct, so that woman can rise again to her lofty, sacred nature and position.

Let us start with the worldly. Let us first lift the oppression of women in rural areas, and the oppression of working-class women in cities and towns, who feel the pierce and burden of oppression more than all other women.

lThe writer is an independent scholar